Sunday, May 8, 2022

Book Review: I Know Her Name by Shanti Hershenson

Title: I Know Her Name
Author: Shanti Hershenson
Publisher: Apollo
Publication Date: December 15th 2021
Print Length: 72 pages
Genre: Non-Fiction Poetry
In the sixth grade, a girl’s life was turned upside down by a series of horrific bullying events.

In seventh grade, she wrote a book about it - You Won’t Know Her Name, a haunting novel told in poetry about a nameless girl who, along with her sister, undergoes the same events.

Now, she returns with a new poetry collection, featuring poems she wrote before, during, and after the creation of You Won’t Know Her Name. These poems are dark and unordered, expressing her pain and healing - everything that was, and wasn’t told in You Won’t Know Her Name.

And this time, The Girl does have a name: Shanti Hershenson.

We don’t talk about the book
With a five letter nameless name

We don’t talk about what it means Or what it’s about

For “The Forbidden Book” is only a book of poetry And poems can do no wrong

I was a big fan of Shanti Hershenson's other poetry book You Won't Know Her Name. Even though the subject matter was heavy, the poems were written extremely well. When I saw that Hershenson had published a companion poetry book titled I Know Her Name, I knew it was something I had to read. Shanti Hershenson, again, blew me away with how talented she is with her poetry.

While I Know Her Name isn't as dark or as heavy as its first book, You Won't Know Her Name, there were still some heavy themes throughout. Hershenson admits in this book that the nameless girl in You Won't Know Her Name was actually her (which I already suspected when I read the first book) and that all the poems in You Won't Know Her Name and I Know Her Name were written about what was happening and what had happened in regards to the bullying and sexual assault done at the hands of a "friend" while she was in junior high and her school's lack of caring. While I Know Her Name isn't a very long book, it still packs a big punch. The poetry is still amazingly written, and to know that they were written by such a young girl makes it even more so. 

I Know Her Name is an emotional read, and my heart really went out to Shanti Hershenson whilst reading this. Her hurt, anger, sadness, frustrations, and all over emotions are easily conveyed with each poem. It broke my heart that she (and many other children) have to face bullying and abuse while the school does nothing about it. I felt like I was right beside Hershenson as she further tells her story through poetry although I felt helpless since I could only read the words and not physically do anything.

Trigger warnings for I Know Her Name include mentions of sexual assault (but not in detail), some profanity (but not much), bullying, depression, mentions of suicide and telling someone to kill themself, and violence.

All in all, I Know Her Name is such an emotional read written by a very talented teenager. It will definitely hit you with many feels and leave you angry at how the school failed this girl. Although this book can be read as a standalone, I would still read You Won't Know Her Name first just for more background and because it's so good. I would most definitely recommend I Know Her Name by Shanti Hershenson to those aged 14+ who are being bullied, have been bullied, or are the bullies themselves. This is a poetry book that won't disappoint.
Shanti Hershenson author picture
Shanti Hershenson's first two novellas were published when she was in the sixth grade, although her writing journey started long before then. Ever since she could hold a pencil, marker, or crayon, she was creating stories. They started from pictures, mere scribbles, and eventually, turned into captivating tales.

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